Monday, January 28, 2013

Garden of Laughs Brings the House Down

On Saturday night, a collection of some of the finest talents in the stand-up comedy world gathered in the Theater at Madison Square Garden for Garden of Laughs.  Adam Ferrara, Darrell Hammond, Robert Klein, Brian Regan, Wanda Sykes, and Ray Romano each performed a 15-20 minute set.  Hosted by Bob Costas, the show was a benefit for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity that works to make dreams come true for misfortunate children, be it from illness, poverty, homelessness, foster care issues, or tragedy.  It was a night of laughs for the kids, but not exactly "for the kids," as Wanda Sykes so eloquently put it, "Kids don't have money.  I'm making you rich people laugh.  Now let's get back to this shit."

When the lights dimmed, a screen descended over the backdrop to play a video clip of David Letterman, the first of many special guests to make an appearance.  Dave provided the Top Ten Failed Acts at MSG, with the list including the Whom, Maroon 4, and the Knicks 2002-2011.

As the night progressed, several other presenters dropped by, including Billy Crudup, Brooke Shields, Ben Stiller, and Garden of Dreams board members Whoopi Goldberg and Darryl McDaniels.  Goldberg and DMC gave this year's Hero Award to Rory Rosegarten, the show's producer, who tearfully thanked his wife.  "That is a smart man.  He may get lucky tonight," remarked Al Trautwig in his trademark baritone.

Adam Ferrara started things off with some cliché drug humor, but found his way with the story of picking out his large-handed wife's engagement ring.  Darrell Hammond shared a few tales about using his Clinton impression, but he may have shared too much by admitting to having used crack in a crackhouse.

Dick Cavett flubbed Robert Klein's intro, citing him as a cast member in How to LOVE a Guy in 10 Days.  He quickly corrected his mistake, adding, "I like my version better."  A pianist accompanied Klein on a love song to colonoscopies, where the 70-year-old showed off his impressive singing skills.  After more jokes about aging, Klein picked up a harmonica for a blues romp about a restless leg.  He totally killed the crowd, and I'm excited to finally spin my New Teeth LP.

The surviving members of Beastie Boys, Mike D and Ad-Rock, had some fun reading Brian Regan's introduction off the monitor at their feet.  Despite a small misstep with a sexist joke, Regan tore the audience up with his observations: "I saw a truck with a company's name painted on it: Feedler Roofing Company.  How did you not call your business Feedler on the Roof?  My name's Feedler, and I'm gonna be on the roof.  Feedler Roofing Company!"  He topped it all off with a hilarious bit about checking into hotels under different names.

A pair of Johns, Leguizamo and McEnroe, brought out the night's sole comedienne, Wanda Sykes.  Wanda talked about the difficulties of raising two white children, and ordering wine for her French wife.  While some parts worked, notably one about her son having a head so huge that it wobbles ("I want to take him to a jazz club, so he can just sit there, and people'd be like, 'That baby likes jazz.  That's a cool-ass baby."), her set would've felt more at home in a hour special than a featured spot.

The time we'd all been waiting for had finally come.  Ray Romano, who has spent more of the last 15 years in TV studios than in comedy clubs, took the stage to thunderous applause.  "When Rory was out here and thanked his wife, he scored major points.  He cried; that's like a three-pointer!"  Romano proved what a masterful stand-up he is, taking an incident that happened earlier in the night and folding it into his set seamlessly.  "But no matter what the score is, the men are always behind.  When Obama was re-elected, in his speech, he said, 'Michelle, I have never loved you more than tonight.'  Even the president!"  Over the course of 18 minutes, Ray joked about his wife's irritation at the way he types, taking a knee during sex, and how growing older has affected his testicles: "It's like the world's slowest race to the ground."

The audience in the theatre leapt to their feet as Bob Costas had all the comics out for a final bow.  It felt good to know that the ticket cost is going to make kids' dreams come true, and also that mine came true when I got to see Brian Regan and Ray Romano.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Wailers Almost Play "Survival" at Brooklyn Bowl

With temperatures in the teens, the Wailers stopped by Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday to heat things up by playing Survival in its entirety.  But like Snoop Dogg, Arrested Development, Band of Horses, and Deer Tick before them, they missed a song.  Even though the record was played in order, the Wailers neglected its fourth track, "Babylon System."  Survival is my favorite Bob Marley & the Wailers LP, so that was disappointing, but the show was redeemed by an encore that went over 20 minutes longer than the set.

We arrived just in time for the opening act, the Flatbush-based Top Shotta Band featuring Screechy Dan on vocals.  His voice was similar to Half Pint's, and the four-piece horn section were dressed in suits and driving caps, looking like former members of a failed third-wave ska band.  Surely enough, online research confirmed the trumpet player and bandleader as DJ Mush 1 of the Slackers.  They were a decent appetizer, with highlights being "Million Tons of Music" despite a sloppy trumpet solo, and the tune that followed.  The set was probably one song too long, however, with Screechy Dan's out-of-tune warbling during closer "There's a Moon Out Tonight" identifying the source of the adjective in his moniker.

The Wailers started things off around 9:35 with an instrumental intro before getting into Survival with "So Much Trouble in the World."  After the live brass of Top Shotta, it was a little sad to see no horns onstage.  Thankfully, to compensate on keys was Keith Sterling of Peter Tosh's Word, Sound, & Power.  Aston "Family Man" Barrett is the only original Wailer still in the band, and was honored last year with Bass Player magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award.  Barrett is not a flashy player, but an excellent composer.  The bass is the backbone of the songs, so he performed the tunes without much deviation from the originals, and the band took his lead.  This is understandable because they are in fact, the Wailers' songs, but without Peter, Bunny, or Bob, the current lineup seems more like a really solid cover band.

I don't envy lead singer Danglin, who has the biggest shoes to fill.  He has a good voice, but it's not Marley's.  That wasn't necessarily to be expected though, considering the only people I've heard capable of approximating it are Bob's sons, Ziggy and Stephen, and strangely enough, Xavier Rudd.  More than the vocals though, is the task of substituting for perhaps the most electrifying frontman of all time.  He had the hopping from foot to foot down, and he at least had dreads, but just inserting "Brooklyn" into the lyrics didn't cut it.

The highlights were the unexpected moments: the live fade out in "Ride Natty Ride" or the addition of a new keyboard sound in "Ambush in the Night."  At the completion of "Wake Up & Live," Danglin incorrectly announced, "Everybody, that was the Survival album in its entirety."  Just 44 minutes after taking the stage, they retreated up the staircase to the right.  The show was billed as "Playing Survival and More," so we clapped until we got more.

Danglin and guitarist Audley Chisholm returned to the stage first.  Leading the encore off with "Redemption Song."  How predictable, right?  Wrong.  They started with a bit of "Time Will Tell" first, and that's how the encore went: I'd think they were on the last song, and then they'd pull another tune out.  Damn, Bob Marley had some great songs.  The hits kept coming, and you could tell the band was having more fun outside the constraints of an album.  Danglin took some liberties with the lyrics on "Stir It Up," drawing attention to all the ladies in the crowd, and having them sing back to him, even the girl behind me who quite possibly had the worst singing voice ever.  Chisholm played a stylish solo in "Jamming," and we all waved our hands from side to side for "Three Little Birds," and did the same with one finger for "One Love."  As Family Man removed his bass from his neck, I figured that was the end of the show.  But he was just swapping it with his son to take the reins at the organ for "Exodus."  As the band jammed along, Danglin started a chant of "Party on!" which was cheesy, but was absolved when it led into "Punky Reggae Party" and back into "Exodus."  Oddly enough, it was this medley, the only one Barrett didn't play bass on, that was my favorite performance of the night.

Within seconds of the show's end, the DJ at the back of the room started spinning.  It was none other than Biz Markie, selecting singles like "Pass the Dutchie," "Fly Like an Eagle," and what seemed a silly choice considering we'd just seen it performed live, "Three Little Birds."  I realized it was a masterstroke, however, when I entered the restroom to hear every person in the line of urinals singing along.  Damn, Bob Marley had some great songs.

There's no denying album shows are in vogue in the live music world.  They're a way to sell tickets to a fan base content to stay at home and listen to their mp3s, where they can always count on hearing their favorite song.  What I like about them is the enforcement of the idea as an album as a collective piece of art.  There are two downsides to this format of show, however:
1. When a song is accidentally or intentionally left out, it embraces the iPod shuffle/Pandora/ADD culture we subsist in, leaving us to wonder, "Why did that song not make the cut?"  Even if you go to a concert for the guarantee of hearing that song, there is no guarantee.  When something is advertised as one thing and you get another, there is an inherent disappointment.
2. The element of surprise is lost.  We know what's coming next, so we can only get that excited about it.  How great is it when you're at a show and you're wondering what they'll play, and then they spring your favorite tune on you?  To counter this, some bands are performing full albums, but folding them into their sets like Dave Matthews Band or Jimmie's Chicken Shack, with mixed results.

My point: If album shows continue to be a popular feature of the live music scene, you might want to have a fact-checker on hand, whether you play the album in order or not. "Babylon System" isn't my favorite song on Survival, "Lodi Dodi" isn't my favorite on Doggystyle, and "U" isn't my favorite on 3 Years, 5 Months, & 2 Days in the Life Of..., but they are all great songs that I had expected to hear.

THE WAILERS - 01.24.13 - BROOKLYN BOWL (1 hour, 52 minutes)

Intro* / So Much Trouble in the World / Zimbabwe / Top Rankin' / Survival / Africa Unite / One Drop / Ride Natty Ride / Ambush in the Night / Wake Up & Live

Time Will Tell > Redemption Song / Roots, Rock, Reggae / I Shot the Sheriff / Is This Love / Stir It Up / Jamming / Could You Be Loved / Three Little Birds / One Love / Exodus > Punky Reggae Party > Exodus

Monday, January 21, 2013

200 Posts! Thanks, Blog History, Twitter, Requests...

This marks the 200th post for Dry Paint Signs.  2012 was the biggest year for the blog so far, where site traffic increased by 3000%.  I would first like to thank every person who has read a review, commented, or just clicked the link by accident when looking for paint products.  But most importantly, I'd like to thank the repeat readers who check back daily for new posts.

This blog started off as a way to bring attention to an issue regarding New York City's 911 operators not having access to updated map software.  Fortunately (though of course, also unfortunately), it turned out to be an incompetent individual I was dealing with, and not a fault of the actual system.  With that out of the way, I started recapping episodes of Kid Nation, writing bizarre short stories, and posting whatever random bullshit happened that day.  Though I was able to salvage some stand-up jokes from my Kid Nation riffs, ultimately, I was unsatisfied with the blog, and pretty much abandoned it.

My first concert review on Dry Paint Signs was for David Byrne's Prospect Park show on 06.08.09.  I'd been writing down setlists for my own personal use since 2001, and decided to begin sharing that info with the world.  I critiqued two more shows that same month, Metric and Phoenix, both at Terminal 5.  When my review of Ted Leo's free show at South Street Seaport was picked up by Brooklyn Vegan and yielded more hits, I decided to shift the focus of the site fully towards live music reviews.

Since then, I've been quoted on sites like Gothamist and Live Music Blog, but I've also had an increasing number of posts shared on Twitter.  While I've always found Twitter to be the lowest common denominator form of sharing information (Anyone who has read one of my reviews knows I'd have a bear of a time using only 140 characters.), I've accepted it as a useful way to advertise and aggregate my creative endeavors.  Now you can follow me @dustinsucks on Twitter to access not only my Dry Paint Signs reviews and lists, but my Tumblr jokes, my blind photography on Instagram, my stand-up comedy announcements, and whatever erratic thoughts I deem 140-character-worthy.

Now, here's where you come in.  2013 is already shaping up to be even bigger than the last, but I want to make it even better for you.  Tell me what you would like to see on the blog, whether it be album reviews, exclusive interviews, video reviews taken directly after concerts, or even for me to finish watching all of Kid Nation.  It's really rewarding to me to know that people are actually reading my work, so let me reward you.  Thanks again for your readership.  I truly do appreciate it.

- Dustin

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Top 15 Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

2013 is shaping up to be a stellar year for new releases, so I put together a list of 15 albums I'm jonesing for.  Hopefully they're all released on vinyl...

15. Charles Bradley - Victim of Love
Release Date: April 2
Why I'm Excited: I saw the "Screaming Eagle of Soul" open up the second day of the Great GoogaMooga Festival, and he was a treasure to behold.  Bradley will be backed by Menahan Street Band again, but this time delving into Temptations psychedelic soul territory.

14. Hellogoodbye - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: HGB have started playing some of the new songs live and at Daytrotter, and they're just as catchy as anything they've done before.

13. The Black Keys - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: The Keys rushed to get El Camino out into the world, and while it didn't live up to Brothers, it was a pretty good album.  They're taking the same approach here, so not sure what to expect, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to it.

12. Bill Baird - Spring Break of the Soul
Release Date: February
Why I'm Excited: His previous LP made my top ten list last year.  Originally conceived as a musical, Spring Break is a sprawling 17-song double album influenced by Captain Beefheart.  Watch Baird in a dolphin costume in the weird promo video below.

11. Matt Costa - Matt Costa
Release Date: February 12
Why I'm Excited: Matt originally wanted to record a folk album akin to his debut, but if the horn-filled "Good Times" and the T. Rex-inspired "Loving You" from last year's Sacred Hills EP are any indication, there's no telling what it's actually gonna sound like.

10. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite - Get Up!
Release Date: January 29
Why I'm Excited: No stranger to recording whole projects with different bands and artists, this time Harper teamed up with renowned harmonica bluesman Charlie Musselwhite.  Here's a little taste.

9. The Postelles - ...And It Shook Me
Release Date: April 23
Why I'm Excited: The bouncy pop-rockers introduced a handful of new songs at Cameo Gallery back in September, and they've still got it!

8. Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart
Release Date: April 23
Why I'm Excited: Turner recorded the album with his touring band, the Sleeping Souls, and he's apparently "pleased as punch" with it.  While "Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons" sadly only made it to the deluxe version, those who were awarded the title of Dance Champions of the United States of America will be delighted to know that "Four Simple Words" is track 7.

7. Cookies - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: I got an email in December saying Cookies were working on their first album, which was "great but taking forever."  Let's hope forever isn't literal.  Until then, download a bunch of free songs here.

6. Streetlight Manifesto - The Hands That Thieve
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: Now that the release date has been delayed twice, I'm seriously hoping this record will see the light of day and doesn't go the way of the oft-rumored Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution full-length.

5. Phoenix - Bankrupt!
Release Date: April
Why I'm Excited: Phoenix broke into the mainstream with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in 2009, winning the Best New Alternative Music Album Grammy and serving as the soundtrack to several commercials.  But we haven't heard a peep from them since.  Now it's time.

4. Phish - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: As the band celebrates its thirtieth year after a spirited 2012 tour and New Year's run, they're planning on heading back to the studio for the third album in their third era.  (I'm counting Party Time, so spare me the arguments.)

3. Jim James - Regions of Light & Sound of God
Release Date: February 5
Why I'm Excited: After fifteen years of fronting My Morning Jacket, James is going solo for more than just a few George Harrison covers.  I've already got my ticket for Music Hall of Williamsburg.

2. David Bowie - The Next Day
Release Date: March 12
Why I'm Excited: I think a lot of people were shocked the other day when Bowie revealed that he'd be unleashing his first album in a decade.  Although leadoff single "Where Are We Now?" is a ballad, producer Tony Visconti claims the album is a rocker.  Visconti produced some of Bowie's most acclaimed works, including The Man Who Sold the World and the Berlin Trilogy, so expect a solid LP.  Even if it's not, Bowie is already prophesying another album starting with four tracks that didn't fit on this one.

1. Broken Anchor - TBA
Release Date: TBA
Why I'm Excited: Who the hell are Broken Anchor, and why are they at the top of this list?  Two days ago, their sampler appeared on NoiseTrade as a free download.  I decided to give it a whirl.  Though they're based out of L.A., the only things Californian about their sound are the Pet Sounds-inspired reverb and vocal harmonies.  The rest owes more to the Northwest, with Austin Hartley-Leonard's vocals recalling Kurt Cobain and lyrics reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie.  And I can't stop listening.  Download the sampler below.

What releases are you looking forward to?  Share in the comments.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jimmie's Chicken Shack Celebrates 20th Anniversary at Rams Head Live

I'm still picking the feathers out of my hair from last night's 20th anniversary Jimmie's Chicken Shack show at Rams Head Live, where for over two hours, almost every incarnation of the band, including the original four members, rocked out more than twenty songs spanning their discography.

Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope is one of my favorite albums ever.  The consummate alternative rock record record, it teams tribal drums with searing slap bass, and crunchy guitars with aggressive, yet listless lyrics.  When I heard JCS were playing it in its entirety at Rams Head Live, I bought both a concert ticket and a bus ticket to Maryland.

The venue filled up as HFS DJ Neci introduced the band, with the current lineup of Island Styles, Christian Valiente, Jerome Maffeo, and of course Jimi Haha taking their places on the wide stage.  Now in his mid-forties, sporting a wedding ring and a distended Frank Zappa t-shirt, Haha looked a tad older, but the years evaporated quickly as they launched into a high-energy combo of "Hole" and "School Bus."  Although the show was advertised as a celebration of 20 years of misses, you wouldn't know it from the crowd of diehards, yelling along to all the words.  After the opening salvo, Haha remarked that the show was over and you could find the band at  "Oh, wait.  We have a couple more songs left," he teased, holding up a setlist.  "I don't always write a setlist, and when I do, it's got 20-fucking-7 songs on it."  They followed with "Sitting with the Dog" and "Outhouse," which may have been played a little prematurely considering the lineup at that point.  The audience felt so too, as things remained fairly tame, most people standing in one place as they called out the lyrics.  Jimi noticed, and said that while he didn't condone moshing, it would be nice if the crowd would collectively bounce, "always up and down, never side to side."

Naturally, this served as an invitation to mosh, and a pit opened up for "Dropping Anchor" that would remain for most of the show.  "This is Not Hell" had Jimi doing his classic tick-tocking back and forth during the melodic guitar intro, and afterwards, he commented that he could feel his heart and brain pounding... but in a good way.  "If I drop dead from an aneurysm, it's gonna be a fucking awesome show," he offered.  "Isn't anybody gonna yell 'Freebird' or 'Play Bliss' or something?  'Bliss' is our 'Freebird' and we haven't played it in like 15 years," he said.  And they played it in true "Freebird" fashion, with three guitars as Matt Jones joined in.  Haha messed up the start of "Mutha Luvas," and put on the "wig of shame," an Afro-puffed hairpiece.  It would be the only track off their most recent album to be performed.  Christian was traded out for bassist Derrick Dorsey to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman" supplied by Matt's guitar.  After a trio of Re.Present ditties, the crowd began to get a little restless, and started hollering out song titles.  Jimi replied, "You got 'Bliss.' We're not playing 'Inside' and we're not gonna do 'Remember' either.  If you wanna make a cover band, call it Jimmie's Lickin' Sack and you can play all the fucking songs we didn't play here."  He opened the blue cooler that sat center stage between the drum kits, procured a bottle of Patrón, and took a generous swig before passing it around.

Mike Sipple and Dave "Double D" Dowling arrived for "Pure" to usher in the Bring Your Own Stereo portion of the set, with Ché Lemon making his first appearance on "Lazy Boy Dash."  It was immediately apparent how much better a drummer Sipple is than Maffeo, and the boys played on through "Spiraling" and "String of Pearls."  Identifying  the scent of weed in the building, Haha asked that joints be thrown onto the stage.  Holding up a cigarette that was tossed, he proclaimed, "This is not a joint.  I will smoke it later, but this is not a joint."  For "Do Right," their one legitimate hit at #12 on Billboard's Top Modern Rock Tracks, Jimi updated the lyric to  "And now you see a ring" to account for his wedding band.  To heighten the drama before the finale, they slowed things down with "30 Days," marking its second performance ever.

"Let's bring out the original recipe in this bitch.  And I'm keepin' my shirt on," Jimi said, as the other founding Jims, McD and Chaney, took their spots with Haha and Ché.  After a brief history of the band's formation, they busted out "Return to Sender."  The band was back!  McD's guitarwork showed hints of the blues that the night's previous axemen did not have, and despite not having all played together in 15 years, they were remarkably tight.  "Spiderweb," as on the album, featured a rap from a beefed-up H1, and although he flubbed a couple stanzas, the energy on the floor was fucking out of control, so it didn't matter in the slightest.  "Another Day," "Blood," and "High," followed, each exceeding the next in energy.  Before the final song, Haha thanked everyone, especially his ten bandmates that made it, which were all aside from two Re.Present-era members, Casey Hean and Kevin Murphy.  He revealed that "Milk" was inspired by the fun of the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis music scene, specifically local band All Mighty Senators. Unfortunately, AMS frontman Landis Expandis was likely hosting karaoke at Hampden's Hon Bar, but with two drummers, two bassists, and four guitarists powering through the song, as well as another H1 rhymefest, no one was thinking about those who weren't in attendance.  In true JCS fashion, there was no encore, but the band emptied out an envelope of feathers onto the crowd before posing for a few reunion photos.

Rarely do I wish that I was older, but last night was one occasion.  The first time I saw Jimmie's Chicken Shack, the lineup was the originals minus McD, who had been replaced by Double D.  After the Rams Head set, it was staggeringly clear to me that the three Jims and a Ché JCS had a chemistry that was never replicated in the band's 20-year history.

JIMMIE'S CHICKEN SHACK - 01.11.13 - RAMS HEAD LIVE (2 hours, 5 minutes)

Hole > School Bus / Sitting with the Dog / Outhouse / Dropping Anchor / When You Die You're Dead / This is Not Hell / Bliss / Mutha Luvas / Frosty the Snowman (tease) / Dead Sleep / Living with Ghosts / Jam / Beautiful / Pure / Lazy Boy Dash / Spiraling / String of Pearls / Do Right / Jam / 30 Days / Return to Sender / Spiderweb (feat. H1) / Another Day / Blood / High / Milk (feat. H1)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bowery Ballroom is the Last Stop on This Steel Train

Steel Train played their last foreseeable show at Bowery Ballroom last night to a sold-out crowd of passionate, if outspoken fans.  Lead singer/guitarist Jack Antonoff is also the guitarist for Fun, a side project that became much more when they hit number one with "We Are Young" and garnered six Grammy nominations.  With Fun's popularity on the rise, Steel Train booked the Bowery gig to give fans another chance to see them, sold it out in a matter of hours, and added a show at Maxwell's the day before.

I first heard of Steel Train when I was at NYU in 2004.  I was shooting a documentary on a dancer, and she recommended them to me as a jam band.  I downloaded some tracks, and even used their cover of "I Want You Back" in the video.  I had that covers EP, the For You My Dear EP, and their debut album Twilight Tales from the Prairies of the Sun, but I have to admit I lost touch with them after college.  When I heard that Jack was joining a band called Fun with Nate Ruess of the Format, I couldn't even fathom what that would sound like, imagining him to still be playing noodling riffs and Santana-inspired solos.  As it turns out, over the past few years, Steel Train had completely revamped their sound to power pop with a generous helping of "oh oh oh" choruses thrown in to get the crowd shouting along.  Antonoff all but abandoned his guitar virtuosity, and even changed his voice, pouring in a little whine.

Jack and the boys kicked things off as they do on their most recent eponymous album, with the one-two punch of "Bullet" and "Turnpike Ghost."  After "Kill Monsters in the Rain" from 2007's Trampoline, some crowdmembers used the break to shout song titles and gibberish.  Antonoff tried to carry a conversation with them, but it proved pointless: "You know what?  Fuck it.  It's too early to speak to each other. We're called Steel Train. This is a song called 'You Are Dangerous.'"  Jack's sister, Rachel, provided additional vocals on "Dakota," which led into "A Magazine," where Jack traded places with keyboardist Justin Huey for the song's middle section.  He took his guitar back to repeatedly strum a chord while he talked to the audience.  After asking who was from NY and NJ, he questioned, "Did anyone fly in?"  There were a surprising number of jetsetters, and they began yelling.  "I assume you're shouting the names of where you're from. Once again, it sounds like nothing," remarked Jack.  Interrupted while attempting to introduce "Road Song," he stopped playing and asked, "Can you shut the fuck up for one second?"  The majority of the song was performed with all five members singing around one mic, as Jack accompanied on his red Gibson.  Unfortunately, I was flanked by people who insisted on singing along loudly, which kept this from being the highlight of the night.  Save that shit for your car.

"Road Song" led into "I Feel Weird," followed by the jumpiest song about OCD ever, "Touch Me Bad."  All the '80s babies rocked out to "Children in the 90s" and then to a song before their time: a faithful rendition of Tom Petty's "American Girl."  "Firecracker" finished out the set, with Jack dictating the crowd's volume of the "no no no no no" singalong, and Jack's dad grabbing a six-string to play and sing backup.  Feedback from Jack's guitar carried over from the set to the encore, so there was never really a break when they gave the crowd a "Black Eye" that had the floor bouncing like a trampoline.  "S.O.G. Burning in Hell" wrapped things up, and despite all the barks from earlier, Jack deemed the crowd "the fucking best ever."

In addition to his OCD, it seems like Jack has developed a need to control a crowd, which was probably the reason why he shifted from folksy jam rock into power pop.  "Firecracker" was hardly the only tune where he motioned for the crowd to pick it up.  To this regard, I think Fun is the best thing for Jack.  Fun will no longer have trouble getting a crowd pumped.  That's not to say I want this to be Steel Train's last show, but I do think if they choose to continue, they need to work on making their songs sound a little different both from each other and other bands'.  Good luck, Jack, in whichever direction you go.  But please don't forget how good of a guitarist you are.

STEEL TRAIN - 01.05.13 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 28 minutes)

Bullet > Turnpike Ghost / Kill Monsters in the Rain / You Are Dangerous > Alone on the Sea / Dakota > A Magazine > Road Song > I Feel Weird > Touch Me Bad / Better Love / Children in the 90s (I'm Not the Same) / American Girl > You & I Undercover / Fall Asleep / Firecracker

Black Eye > S.O.G. Burning in Hell

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 20 Live Songs of 2012

20. "Banana Boat (Day-O)" - Good Old War, 04.25, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
"Do you wanna hear Tim do his best Harry Belafonte?" Keith asked the crowd. Tim sang the opening to "Day-O" perfectly, but no one expected the band to join in and play the whole song. Nice birthday present.

19. "Como Ves" - Ozomatli & the New York Pops, 06.12, Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY
Classic Ozo taken to new heights with the orchestra.

18. "Ashamed" - Deer Tick, 12.19, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
Started off slow and built into a frenzy of horn solos and crowd chants.

17. "Spirit Bird" - Xavier Rudd, 12.03, Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Offering the last part to the audience to sing, the fans succeeded with remarkable restraint and pitch control.

16. "Golden Train" - Penguin Prison, 06.24, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
Hopping off the stage to perform while walking through the crowd during the first song surprised the shit out of me.

15. "Stars" - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, 06.14, Irving Plaza, New York, NY
You could see the pain on her face that she felt when she wrote this beautiful ballad.

14. "One Foot Before the Other" - Frank Turner, 09.30, Webster Hall, New York, NY
Frank Turner goes prog.  Lights and bass were amazing.

13. "Excuse Me Mr." - Ben Harper, 10.10, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
Hard to pick a favorite from the night, but the off-mic singing on this sounded incredible in the hallowed hall.

12. "Digest" - Ben Taylor, 05.17, City Winery, New York, NY
John Forté asked if he could sing it with Ben, and modified the lyrics to "Nothing's been the same since I've been gone," to reference his time in prison.

11. "Rat Race" - Antibalas, 08.18, Williamsburg Park, Brooklyn, NY
Likely the best Marley cover I've seen.

10. "Be Mine" - Alabama Shakes, 10.06, Merriweather Post Pavilion (Virgin Mobile Freefest), Columbia, MD
Brittany Howard just aced it on this one.

9. "We Are Young" - Fun, 06.22, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Crowd sang along triumphantly to the single of the year. Great acoustics.

8. "(718)" - 2 Skinnee J's, 08.24, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
In (718). Haven't jumped in the air at a concert in God knows how long.

7. "What Makes a Good Man?" - The Heavy, 08.30, Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Backup singers sent this one to near heavenly proportions.

6. "Root Down" - Animal Liberation Orchestra, 05.09, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
Just days after Adam Yauch's passing, ALO busted out this funky gem, which included "Maria" in its center.

5. "No One's Gonna Love You" - Band of Horses, 09.18, House of Vans, Brooklyn, NY
One of my favorite songs ever in such an intimate venue.  Literally got chills.

4. "Walk Like a Giant" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse, 09.29, Central Park Great Lawn (Global Festival), New York, NY
Crashing footsteps of a giant at the end were so fucking ballsy.

3. "Shake Up the Place" - 10 Ft. Ganja Plant, 04.20, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA
Sublime harmonies.  The smile on Kevin Kinsella's face has been burned into my mind forever.

2. "Try" - Everyone Orchestra, 10.27, Sullivan Hall, New York, NY
Grand Ole Opry-style chorus combined with Zach Gill's hilarious musings on his attic.  Should always be performed this way.

1. "Down with Disease" - Phish, 12.30, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Sweetest jam of the whole NYE run.  Spaced through different movements until it came to a driving funk conclusion.  I'll be listening to this for years.